Afghanistan and the Region

Project Leaders
2001 to Present

The project on Afghanistan and the Region is a multiyear, multiphase, interdisciplinary endeavor that focuses on state, security, and capacity building in Afghanistan from domestic, regional, cultural, geopolitical and humanitarian perspectives. It was funded in part by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


LISD’s project on Afghanistan and the Region is a multiyear, multiphase, interdisciplinary initiative that began in May 2001—before September 11, 2001—after Wolfgang Danspeckgruber returned from India and Pakistan around the time when the two Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed in March. The project focuses on creating peace and stability for the individual man, woman, and child—“by, for, and with the Afghans and Afghanistan.” It deals with state, security, and capacity building in Afghanistan from domestic, regional, and geopolitical perspectives. The project has been funded in part by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It is directed by Wolfgang Danspeckgruber.

The project’s current phase prioritizes evaluation, analysis, and policy-related publication on political and economic development and civilian capacity building in Afghanistan. It analyses the situation of women and children, girls, and boys; education and health services; and food and water security. Special attention is given to domestic governance and leadership, fundamentalism, and the relationships between Afghanistan and its neighbors—in particular Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian states, but also Turkey, Russia, India, and China. The macroregion is adapting to Taliban rule, the exit of international forces and related support structures, and to the influx of foreign terror actors. Project work concentrates on issues related to political economy; Taliban governance, particularly at the local and provincial levels; information control; infrastructure development; natural resource exploration and use; and broader strategic factors affecting domestic and regional security. Research will also be demand-driven based on input from participating actors, project findings from research trips, and on-the-ground developments in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and the MENA region.  

Phase I of LISD’s Afghanistan and the Region project built on spring 2001 research on self-governance and security in South Asia and an off-the-record meeting with Afghan leaders on the future of their country, held at Princeton University two months after 9/11. This beginning phase of the Afghanistan project prioritized state building and security as the international community worked to implement the provisions of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement.  

Phase II began in 2006, considering Afghanistan’s development from a regional perspective as the country moved out of immediate post-conflict transition toward a more politically and economically secure and viable state among its neighbors—all against the backdrop of the war in Iraq and the 2004 tsunami.

Phase III work began in 2008 and concentrated on key issues of governmental, security, and police reform; rule of law and governance; economy, infrastructure, and international assistance/donor policy; and the creation of a viable regional compact.

Phase IV began in 2010, focusing on analysis and proven practices to create stability in Afghanistan and to facilitate Afghan buy-in, empowerment, and civilian capacity building— together with Afghan experts, practitioners, and representatives—as the country prepared for and adapted to the drawdown of the United States and international military forces. This phase also addressed reconciliation with insurgents and the Taliban; sustainable job and income creation, including special issues related to youth and widows; capacity building and education; Afghan security preparations for the serious reduction of US and allied military presence; and ways to facilitate positive relations among countries in the region. It also assisted in the preparation of Bonn II.

Phase V began in 2012 and directed its analysis and policy-related research on economic development and civilian capacity building in Afghanistan, and on constructive regional relationships between Afghanistan and its regional neighbors.  

Phase VI began in 2014 and focused on analyzing, explaining, and developing policy formulation as a response to interconnected issues concerning security dimensions, politics, terrorism, socioreligious matters, trade, energy, and infrastructure. The geographical area considered spanned from the Hindu Kush westwards toward the Suez Canal and from the Persian Gulf to the Caucasus Mountains—covering space comparable to the ancient empire of Alexander the Great.

Phase VII evaluated the degrading national situation and its impact on the wider OSCE region, the rise of the influence and areas of control of the Taliban, and the changing global political climate.

Phase VIII, beginning in 2021, has prioritized analysis, creation, and publication of a geopolitical mapping and data compendium (a LISD “Crisis Compendium”), and 3-D mapping of Afghanistan. In a series of private meetings, the project and its expert network has been engaged to assess the fallout of the dramatic abandonment of the Afghans by Western powers in August 2021. The current phase tries to develop innovative ways to deal with gender apartheid, to bring food and stability, and to find means of sustainable development for Afghan society under suppressive Taliban control.

About the Afghanistan Reflection Team (ART)

Since spring 2001, a group of international experts on Afghanistan has regularly met on the initiation of Wolfgang Danspeckgruber to conduct analysis and evaluation on Afghanistan and the region at LISD, Princeton University, and globally. This network of experts from and on Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Reflection Team (ART), has also undertaken joint research and publications. ART fosters and coordinates research, evaluation, and policy recommendations on Afghanistan and the region while privileging independent, interdisciplinary, intergenerational, intercultural, and interreligious respect. ART is drawing on significant input from Afghans themselves, seeking to help create peace and stability for the individual woman, man, and child in Afghanistan. Its motto: “By, for, and with the Afghans and Afghanistan.”


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